Book Review: Phil Esposito: Thunder and Lightning, A No-B.S. Hockey Memoir
Phil Esposito is not a Pulitzer Prize Author. However, Phil Esposito has lived an extremely interesting life in the world of professional hockey. Phil Esposito: Thunder and Lightning, A No-B.S. Hockey Memoir, is Esposito’s account of his life in hockey over the past five decades. The book was released in 2003 with the aid of Peter Golenbock.
As a title including ‘no B.S.’ would indicate, Esposito hides nothing. He intertwines exciting tales from both on the ice and behind the scenes in the world of hockey and provides a look into the personal life of one of the NHL’s greatest offensive threats.
Esposito was born in and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. He writes of his hockey journey that took him from junior hockey with the St. Catherines TeePees of the OHA to his first taste of the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks to his Hall of Fame career with the Boston Bruins. He touches on his late career stint with the New York Rangers and goes deep regarding his adventures in team ownership with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Esposito speaks his mind in life and absolutely speaks his mind in Thunder and Lightning. He’s not shy when he writes of his highs and lows in the NHL as a player, coach, general manager and owner. Hockey fans will love to read what really transpired when he was shipped from Chicago to Boston, what happened behind the scenes during the 1972 Summit Series with the Soviet Union, what happened when Boston abandoned him and sent him to the New York Rangers and what happened during his adventure to bring a new franchise into the NHL.
A fascinating fact for fans who were too young or not even alive when Esposito played the game was that it wasn’t until after his eighth year in the NHL that he no longer had to work during the off-season at a steel plant in Sault Ste. Marie to make ends meet. He was one of the first NHL players to make $100,000 in a season and that wasn’t until he was thirty years old and held the NHL’s record for most goals and points in a single season. Today, first year players are making millions.
Thunder And Lightning: A No-b.s. Hockey Memoir
On page 118 of the 283 page book, Esposito accurately addresses the issue about what has happened to the North American game. While describing the results of the 1972 Summit Series when Canada beat the hated Soviets, he writes this:
Afterwards Kulagin told the reporters, “The one thing we couldn’t match the Canadians with was emotion.” No, they couldn’t, because they were robots. If they didn’t do exactly as they were told, they were penalized or ostracized. Ironically, over the years the Canadian game has become more like the game the Russians used to play. Because of the big salaries today, it’s rare to see NHL players score a goal and show their joy and excitement. Every once in a while I still see a player consumed with the emotion of winning. Does it matter whether you win or lose if you’re making three million a year?
This book is a great read for the true hockey fan. The game has evolved so much in a relatively short amount of time and Esposito brings to the forefront the changes that a few decades have made. Players today are under incredible scrutiny and can’t do a thing out of line on or off the ice without being brow beaten in the press. This wasn’t the case in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Drinking and sex were rampant among the underpaid NHL players and the book is not lacking in tails of these hijinx. The only players immune from Phil’s tell-all are the ones that are still married to the same wives today. Don Cherry, Bobby Orr, Howard Cosell and Alan Eagleson are just a few of the names that pop up in sometimes less than flattering situations.